Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On : 2

Driven to Write continues its Geneva walk of shame, and finds some cause for optimism amidst the mainstream behemoths.

A hatchback variant of a hatchback. Genius. Image: Autoblog

The boys at Zuffenhausen have been diligently erasing their previous work in creating a more svelte version 2.0 Panamera, debuting the Sport Turismo, which features a vast 20-litres of additional stowage space. Interesting to see how well judged the business case is with this one. Given that Mercedes’ CLS equivalent has hardly set sales charts alight (and is not being replaced), Porsche management are clearly crossing their fingers and toes here.

The cavernous Panamera Sport Turismo load bay. Image: Autocar

Chairman Oliver Blume told awaiting journalists,  “The Panamera Sport Turismo is a car that will take you to Nürburgring in the morning, the Eiffel mountains in the afternoon and home on the Autobahn with no problems at all.” What Mr. Blume appears to have ignored is that a clapped out Vectra diesel (estate) could manage that feat.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e. Image: Alertcars

VW’s more rarefied British outpost was also in expansive mood, with a second showing for the Bentley Speed 6 concept (this time in open two-seater form). The EXP 12 Speed 6e concept to give it its full name is said to prefigure a potential baby brother to the Continental and was shown here with a suggested hybrid drivetrain – not that there was much clear evidence of that. Bentley wants an additional model line, which they feel will secure their business. A second pop at the Geneva cherry suggests however there is still no firm decision on production.

Image: Robertas Parazitas

Styling-wise, while the overall form of the thing is less overwrought than the usual Crewe fare, the nose treatment puts this commentator in mind of Toyota’s 1964 Sports 800. This should not infer any slight against the charming Japanese two-seater, but I somehow doubt it featured on Bentley stylist’s mood boards. It’s probably academic anyway, seeing as Bentley can only afford one new model line and with Bentayga sales so buoyant, the no-brain answer is another crossover. Expect a baby Bentagya in a year or three.

When too much simply isn’t enough. Bentayga by Mulliner. Image: Daily Express

And on that subject, proving that vulgar excess isn’t confined to the Mansory’s of this world, Bentley chose Geneva to debut the Bentayga Mulliner, a top-shelf offering from the car maker’s bespoke atelier; described by the British luxury brand as, “the most exquisitely appointed luxury SUV ever created.” I’m bound to admit, upon first setting eyes on this temple to excess I was immediately reminded of this.

Image: Auto Express

Meanwhile it was champagne flutes all round at PSA, flushed with the twin victories of ECOTY and the acquisition of Opel, the French manufacturer’s Citroën division was busy with statements of intent. Chevron-wise the C-Aircross concept gave a (very) broad hint to the C3 Picasso replacement which will probably debut this Autumn. One (conjoined) word: Airbumps.

Dazzling! DS7 Crossback. Image: Robertas Parazitas

Over at Distinctive Series towers, the DS7 Crossback was shown in all its reflective vainglory. As the first purpose developed product offering since they broke away from Citroën, this vehicle has the job of re-establishing the DS identity in addition to all the regular duties of a halo model. No small ask this – it had better look and feel truly distinctive. Oh…

Image: Robertas Parazitas

DS’ copywriters were understandably more bullish – (or perhaps another word that sounds a bit like bullish) saying;  “DS 7 CROSSBACK [their capitals] exudes power and poise through its design. Viewed from the front the vertical grille uses our distinctive DS Wings motif which melds seamlessly into our signature of spectacular lighting. This is an SUV like no other. Full LED rear lights are brighter and safer. Their 3D effect brings DS 7 CROSSBACK’s [their capitals again] rear to life, enriching the car’s appeal. Jewel-like DS Active LED Vision headlamps with LED daytime running lights give DS 7 CROSSBACK [and yet again] a mesmerising appearance.” So there you have it – DS’ USP laid bare. Fancy lighting. Brilliant…

Alpine A110. Image: Robertas Parazitas

But it would be dispiriting to end on a negative, so praise be for Alpine, Renault’s reanimated performance offshoot. Having lived through a gestation as convoluted as it was lengthy, it could so easily have been watered down into retro-nostalgic irrelevance. Instead, Alpine’s engineers held true to a vision and appear to have produced something genuinely admirable and thoroughly desirable. Lightweight, compact and very pretty, if it carries itself as lightly as its mild retro styling cues, (genuine) enthusiasts could be in for a treat. Jean-Marc Gales take note. To be frank, this delightful little car deserves an article in its own right, so I’ll keep this short. But having hitherto dismissed it as a pointless exercise in revisionism, I’ll happily recant.

Alpine A110. Image: Robertas Parazitas

Another worthy development stems from even further left of field. For some years now, India’s Tata Motors have been getting on with transforming themselves into a genuine rival to their domestic European and Japanese rivals. Their current lineup of compact saloons, hatchbacks and crossovers look good, and drive at least as well as anything broadly comparable. In this, they’ve had the good sense to enlist the help of others – some known to these pages. But Geneva heralds another phase of Tata’s ambitions. TAMO sees the Indian motor giant reaching beyond mere conveyances into the realm of genuinely desirability. The Racemo is a mid-engined 2-seater broadly similar in size to a Mazda MX5, but powered by a mid-mounted 1.2 litre, 3 cylinder engine with over 180 bhp. With an advanced lightweight composite body structure and with chassis dynamics finessed in the UK by notable experts in the field, Racemo, while unlikely to win many beauty contests sounds very promising indeed.

TAMO Racemo. Image: Autocar

Perhaps it was ever thus – the truly interesting stories are amongst the outliers. The big boys however keep on ploughing the path of least resistance, but really, what else do we expect from them?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

16 thoughts on “Geneva 2017 Reflections – And the Band Plays On : 2”

  1. That Alpine … divine. The Pininfarina saloon (Global Hybrid???) was my favourite at the show. It would make a lovely Lancia … The DS7 HUNCHBACK … unspeakable.

  2. Was it me or did this year´s Genf show feature a lot of very expensive irrelevances?
    Another small comment is that the Porsche hatchback reminds me of the De Tomaso Deauville in one one way. And the little flick on the rear edge of the roof makes me inevitably think of a Trevi.

    1. Richard – Expensive irrelevance is an important part of what Geneva is about. That and the garage equipment in Hall 7, which the civilians have to troop through from the public concourse to reach the real meat.

      There must have been at least twenty actual or putative supercar makers with stands, then there are the modifiers, the dreamers, the reminders of the inequality of human life. It seems that whatever the uncertainties of the world, the rich are always with us.

      Much more of this and I’ll be co-opting Jezza Corbyn to next years visit…

  3. The Porsche Panamax Turbo Sport Turismo Turbo Sport Turbo Turbo is an odd one, offering barely any more space and only subtly different visuals over the base model. For my money (not that Porsche are going to get a brass Pfennig from me for this car), the Sport Turismo Turbo Sport Turbo Turbo should have been the Panameerkat mark 2 full stop, Porsche having done away with the standard hatch variant at the planning stage. I also note that the styling of the Sport Turismo Turbo Sport Turbo Turismo Turbo has been considerably watered down over the concept. God is in the details at this end of the market, and the Paralympic Sport Gran Turismo Turbo Sport Turbo Turismo Turbo Sport doesn’t quite do it.

  4. The Alpine A110 has very much confounded my expectations. It looks terrific and the technical specification promises much. Of course, we know how the stories will play out in the car magazines: driven back to back over the B-roads around Snowdonia, the A110 will prove nice in isolation but not as thrilling as an Elise or as good an all rounder as the Porsche Cayman. Well stuff that. Unless it proves to be a dog (unlikely on the face of it), I would rather have the Alpine.

    1. You can write the stories now. It seems the car firmament is fixed: Porsche, BMW, Mercedes are all super no matter what. Everyone else is good but lacks the badge. The latest edition of TG Buyers´ Guide says as much about the Peugeot 508. They say that if it had the right badge it would get more space or words to that effect. I really wonder what the point of the reviews are if they will conclude like robots that if it´s not a BMW/Mercedes/Porsche/Audi it´s not good enough. What is the point of reviewing these cars except to compare every new “prestige” model with its predecessor or its peers. I grant that the products are often good but not so good as to result in the mandatory dismisssal of the others. I see these cars as being as uninteresting as the cynical schlock Ford, BMC and Vauxhall sometimes sold. They have pulled their socks up but the motoring writers don´t really care.
      On the subject, this is the month I finally stopped buying Car. It´s sold out in my local newsagent and I don´t mind. That´s the end of 25 years as a reader. It should have happened five years ago but I held on. I doubt the issues I have from 2007 onwards will ever be that interesting either. It´s not as if I can go back and read them in 2027 once the dust has settled.

    2. I packed up reading Car Magazine (and car magazines in general) five years ago, when my son was born. My interest had been tapering for a while, but suddenly I had neither the time nor the money to spend reading the same old stories. Nowadays when I find the odd copy of Autocar floating around the doctor’s waiting room I will give it a quick flick, but I never see anything to peek my interest.

    3. One problem I rarely see discussed in the context of car mags is that affecting print publications as a whole – what is the value proposition in the digital age? “Back in my day”, Newsdesk or similar used to offer industry detail that just wasn’t available in broadsheet newspapers. Nowadays, between Automotive News and the staggering amount of reviews and high-res images available for free on the web, I find it extremely difficult to construct a strong justification for handing over a non-nominal amount of money every month. And that’s before we get to the general quality of the writing to be found therein, which is some considerable way from the profession’s heyday.

    4. Richard. Coincidentally I bought my first copy of Car in 5 years last week. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I feared – better than the last issue I subscribed to maybe, or perhaps I have unfairly exaggerated its shortcomings in my memory. But it was also reasonably uninspiring and I can’t blame that on the present industry.

      I read it in tandem with Car & Driver and, although their attempts at being left-field can be frustratingly hit and miss (a article about alternative pizza delivery vehicles that was abysmal) it is far more entertaining at the same time as trying to go deeper (it has far more quantitative analysis of performance and road holding for instance).

      I conclusion I expect I might buy Car again in 2023, I’ll likely buy another C&D sooner. But as Chris says there is so much free stuff out here that it must be a losing battle for publishers. Also, amI mistaken or has the print quality of Car diminished?

  5. I feel like the Alpine has had a pretty cool reception from the media up until now. I am glad people are now starting to be more positive about it – selling a sports car like this is a big gamble these days, and Renault deserve praise for brilliant by brave.

    They’ve dropped the ball by not offering it with a manual gearbox though. A difficult decision to understand.

  6. I actually don’t mind the Panamera Shooting Whatever per se, it’s just that I’m also wondering what it’s supposed to offer that the saloon doesn’t. I guess it’s the Panamera Mk2 in its actual intended shape, if it wasn’t for the need to cater to both 911 traditionalists and those who consider a fastback so much classier than a humble hatchback.

    The Bentley (the roadster, that is) I don’t get at all. It looks like some uninspired, custom-bodied Aston Martin V8 Vantage with a silly nose. Bentley certainly is the VAG brand with the biggest issues, in terms of styling – yes, I’m well aware of that strange Arteon.

    The Dreadfully Stupid I shall ignore, for sanity’s sake.

    Unlike the Alpine, which has turned out to be rather pleasant, I have to agree. He may be (over)hyped, but the Dutch sneakers collector is doing a better job than most of his peers in the industry right now.

  7. The discussion around the Alpine reminds me of that around the Sport Spider twenty years ago. That tanked in a big way. I hope this does better, I am a total sucker for anything in that shade of bleu.

  8. The USP for car magazines like Car is intelligent writing and good photography. The news is not the AN stuff but well-written launch drives that should be “the reviews of record” which is what marked out Car. These days I find I don’t believe in what they write so I have stopped paying up. With another outlook they could thrive; as it is the likes of Curbside Classics, Addicted to Cars, Hooniverse and Bart’s site are eating their lunch. To be vain, I think DTW has taken a bite as well.

  9. Sean: I’d agree with you that the paper seems nastier, less glossy. No-one can see quite what I mean about photo quality yet I firmly feel the images are less legible, flatter and more synthetic.
    Every month the Car team go and drive half a dozen cars or more and piss away the time and money on dismissive or superficial 400 word reports. To write them up to 1000-1500 would take maybe two more hours and yield loads of content. The problem lies in a lack of vision and permission for vision.
    This month’s magazine had a clutch of high performance cars. No. And this was the deal-breaker, regarding the Golf: “design details to die for”. No fl*ppin* way am I paying money for a magazine where “to die” for gets past the editor.
    I have my tics and clichees to be certain; they are mine though.

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